Alexis Wheeler, J.D. ’09, is no stranger to an uphill climb.
An avid hiker, she talks excitedly about the varied geography of her home state of Washington, not only its glaciers and mountain ranges but also its rainforests, deserts, lakes, and massive inland sea.
Her path to college was also marked by peaks and valleys. Her family faced financial difficulties, but she was fortunate enough to attend a well-resourced public high school in her hometown of Bellevue. It taught her a valuable lesson about access to opportunity.
“If you’re at an elite private school or a magnet public school where the norm is going to a four-year college, then you can basically just follow the current,” she said. “But if that’s not the norm, you’re left to discover it on your own,” as school staff are often overstretched, and family and friends may not have the time or firsthand knowledge to provide much guidance.
And that’s the reason Wheeler founded the Harvard Club of Seattle’s Crimson Achievement Program (CAP) in 2018. The initiative helps illuminate the path to college for high-potential ninth- and 10th-graders from Western Washington school districts in low-income areas.
“At its core, CAP is about fostering sustainable, systemic change through interconnection and interdependence — everyone contributes something to the program and everyone gains something,” Wheeler said.